How I Became a Vegan…No New Year’s Resolution Required
Ah, New Year’s Resolutions… those little declarations of hopeful intent, those noble statements of purpose that begin with the best of intentions but often end in disappointment and self-loathing…*sigh*
Ok, ok. I know I’m being a teensy bit melodramatic, but I make a list of resolutions every year, and every year, I neglect them. (Sound familiar?) Life has a way of derailing even the best made plans and often does. So this year, I didn’t make any. That’s right; 2017 is on track to become the year of doing – not planning, not resolving, just doing.
Case in point: I’m a vegan now! I know that makes it sound like it was a decision I made on a whim, but it came about very organically.
A little background: For the last 10 years or so, I have been a pescetarian, which means I ate fish/seafood but no other meat (dairy and eggs were ok). I jokingly called myself a “lazy vegetarian”, enjoying weekly sushi date nights with my hubby and eating my weight in fish tacos each summer. But, despite how much I enjoyed certain foods, I always struggled to reconcile the fact that what I was eating was once a living thing. For a variety of reasons I’ll save for another time, that general feeling of unease came into sharp focus over the last few months, and with very little fanfare, I reached the conclusion that eating meat or animal products was no longer the right decision for me.
That brings us to today. About a month has passed since my last non-vegan meal. (For those who are fuzzy on the distinctions, a vegan does not eat meat, dairy, eggs, or any animal-derived products. Most vegans also eschew leather and any other products that contribute to the harm of animals). I didn’t make a resolution to “go vegan”, nor did I spend a ton of time planning the transition or how I would navigate a world without cheese (the HORROR! haha). I just started by cooking myself plant-based meals, one meal at a time.
Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:
1. Giving up milk and cheese was not the struggle I thought it would be. As someone who thought she could NEVER do without macaroni and cheese, pizza, or daily lattes, this is something I wish I had known sooner. It finally clicked for me when I realized that veganism isn’t about depriving yourself of things you enjoy; it’s about finding better – healthier, ethically and environmentally responsible, and still delicious and satisfying – ways to enjoy foods and daily routines.
2. Find your great cup of coffee. Everything else will follow. I start each day with a cup of coffee (traditionally enjoyed with cream and sugar), and I love, LOVE a good latte. LOVE. Sure, I can drink black coffee, but I don’t enjoy it nearly as much. So, what is a newbie vegan coffee drinker to do? In my case, I tried every dairy milk alternative I could get my hands on – soy milk, unsweetened soy milk, vanilla soy milk, almond milk, vanilla almond milk, cashew milk, pea-derived plant-based milk, coconut milk, hemp milk…well, you get the idea. I tried as many styles and brands as I could until I found new go-to favorite options in terms of taste, consistency, and availability. I keep my favorites stocked at home and at the office, and I know what to order now when I’m at a coffee shop. It’s a small thing, but re-claiming that one routine made everything else easier. For you, it may not be coffee. It may be starting off each day with a bowl of cereal and milk. The concept is the same. Find your great cup of coffee, and everything else will follow.
3. Nobody’s perfect, and you won’t be a perfect vegan. That’s ok. My problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that they put too much pressure on our goals to be perfect and absolute. So many people made New Year’s Resolutions to eat vegan this month that it earned its own catchy name: Veganuary. While it’s awesome that people are enthusiastic about veganism, it’s a safe bet that a lot of those people are going to “slip up” that first month by eating something non-vegan (whether accidentally or on purpose), get frustrated, and then as a result, go back to their “normal” pre-resolution diet. It’s a lot harder to succeed when we approach things in such black and white terms. Why not, instead, be a little more forgiving of ourselves?
Since I made the conscious decision to start following a vegan diet, I’ve had two “slips”. The first time was an accident – I reached for a pack of crackers out of habit and didn’t realize until after I had eaten them that they were CHEESE crackers (duh). The second time was by choice – I attended a friend’s baby shower, and I ate a piece of regular cake, because I wanted to share in the experience. I don’t plan on doing that again anytime soon, but I’m also not going to discount the progress I’ve made because of it. Veganism is a lifestyle, and as with all areas of our lives, we may stumble from time to time. That doesn’t mean we don’t keep moving forward.
So, tell me — how are you approaching the New Year? Did you make any resolutions, goals, or big lifestyle changes, or are you just going with the flow and seeing what 2017 brings? I’d love to hear from you!